In the art of St Ives, as in its landscape, we experience continuities between internal and external; air, sea and land. Divisions are soft or absent. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that they are lines of movement rather than borderlines. We see this in the continuum of Patrick Heron's Harbour Window with Two Figures, the hollows of Barbara Hepworth's fugues, or in the found cardboard canvases of Alfred Wallis. But we also see it where the weather station appears unexpectedly at the end of a street or above a restaurant. Where through a hole or nook we spy the ocean, and there again behind us, as if we were on an island.
My first visit to St Ives was perhaps a decade ago. I brought a book of coloured paper and some oil pastels and soon discovered that while the primitiveness of the media was right, the scale was not. I could not describe a line on that scale that would take in the sweep of shore from Godrevy Head to Hayle. Which said as much for my inadequacies as a draughtsman as the poverty of the materials. I did however bring a reassuringly heavy Sony minidisc recorder to record sea sounds, wind, creaking hinges and other sounds of the place.
It took me ten years to make the tiny leap from here to the obvious. Late summer 2009 I acquired a tiny Tascam digital multitrack. Less than a quarter of the size of the early 80s Tascam Porta One that I grew up with. This was set to work almost immediately to record a set of pieces on a vaguely utopian theme entitled Upon These Might We Brunch. Carrying the machine back home from a wholesale AV suppliers on the North Circular, the portability of the equipment made ideas bloom in my head: I could record anywhere with this. I could go to St Ives for a week and record there.
Nine months later, nine months crowned by one of the worst winters for years, I found myself on the sun-soaked rocks beneath the weather station with a bare minimum of equipment: a red Hohner Steinberger headless guitar, an Ebow, a new pair of orange WeSC headphones from one of the surf shops in The Digey, and the Tascam recorder. The gear looked more like essentials for some outdoor pursuit or extreme sport than musical instruments. The method was open and borderless: plug the guitar into the Tascam in channel one and leave channel two open for the microphone to pick up environmental sounds: wind, sea birds, tourists, helicopters - multitrack as required.
Batteries ran dry, teenagers made devil horns from the rocks above, tourists waved from boats passing by, and I fried like an egg. I reviewed the material from a window seat in a restaurant on The Wharf and bumped the tracks down to my laptop on the train back to London. We experience continuities between internal and external; air, sea and land. Divisions are soft or absent. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that they are lines of movement rather than borderlines.
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